Two days after Hindu activist Kamlesh Tiwari was brutally murdered by Jihadis for blaspheming against the prophet of Islam, far-left atheist Umar Khalid has come out as a devout Muslim on social media. In a long Twitter thread, the former ‘apostate’ Umar Khalid preached the glory of Islam.
Umar Khalid claimed that the prophet was “not just Rahmatul Muslimeen. He is Rahmatul Alameen.” For a person who is supposedly an ‘atheist’, that’s an awful lot of respect for a religious figure. He further says that “we” shouldn’t disrespect anyone’s religious beliefs because that “goes against the Prophet’s teachings.” It was part of a coordinated attempt to deflect attention from the threat of Radical Islamic Terrorism and blame the ‘Hindutva brigade’ for preaching hatred.
Thus, it can be safely concluded that whatever Umar Khalid’s beliefs were until yesterday, the tweet thread confirmed that he is no longer an ‘apostate’. He is a devout Muslim now. The punishment for apostasy is deemed to be death by a great many Muslims around the world. It is a crime in many Islamic countries and some even reserve the death penalty for apostates. The Islamic term for an apostate is ‘Murtad’.
Umar Khalid’s apparent reconversion to being a Muslim presents an interesting case as his leftwing atheist credentials were greatly emphasized in the media. Scroll published an article with the headline “Sedition frenzy: How the media painted atheist and communist Umar Khalid as an Islamist”.
The Hindu, too, emphasized on him being a “hardcore communist” who “does not believe in any religion”. Not just Scroll or The Hindu, Wire and Quint and numerous other media outlets also published articles emphasizing on his communist identity and atheism.
In February 2016, he was quoted by NDTV as saying that he had felt ‘Muslim’ for the first time in his political life during the JNU controversy. He had said, “For the six-seven years that I have done politics on this campus, I have never thought of myself as a Muslim. I have never also projected myself as a Muslim. In the last 10 days, for the first time, I felt like a Muslim. These people are telling us about patriotism… They may have a majority but they are scared of us… they are scared of our struggle, they are afraid of us because we think.”
However, long after that as well, Umar Khalid was continued to branded as an atheist by the media and judging from the fact that he never corrected them, it is safe to say that he continued to be an atheist long after that. The confirmation of his Muslim identity only came after Kamlesh Tiwari’s murder for blasphemy by Jihadis, although it has been suspected for long.
Thus, there are two major possibilities that could perhaps explain Umar Khalid’s radical transformation from an atheist to a Muslim. Firstly, the whole charade of him being a Muslim might have been ‘Taqiyya’. The practice of ‘Taqiyya’ is religiously sanctioned lying or deceiving non-Muslims in order to present oneself as not a true believer in Islam.
The other possibility is that seeing the rise of Radical Islam, which is the single greatest threat that India currently faces and has many Indians afraid for their lives, ‘Murtad’ Umar Khalid did not feel comfortable with identifying himself as an atheist in these troubled times. It could very well be that he succumbed to the threat of Radical Islam, which was evident in Kamlesh Tiwari’s murder, and used the ‘Hindutva brigade’ to reaffirm his identity as a Muslim.
If the second speculation is indeed correct, then it does really speak for the times we are living in when someone who has been as vocal a critic of Hindutva as Umar Khalid and has adopted numerous stances which have popular support among Islamic fundamentalists as well does not feel safe as an atheist. In fact, his brand of politics was so similar to that of Islamic fundamentalists that the media had to emphasize on his ‘communist atheist’ credentials to rubbish speculations of him being a closet Islamist. The biggest argument against this theory is the fact that not a single Islamic fundamentalist, not anyone we know of anyway, has issued any comments against him for being a Murtad, which is extremely unusual.
Of course, Umar Khalid could go on to claim in the future that he is still an atheist. But it will be extremely difficult for anyone to sell that story given the manner in which he prostrated before on Twitter. Furthermore, the fact that he used hashtags on Twitter to deflect attention from the barbarity of Radical Islam demonstrated during Kamlesh Tiwari’s murder makes it monumentally hard to argue that he is still an atheist. Despite all of this, he could, of course, still claim to be an atheist but that will be extremely hard to believe.
One has to admit that there are other possibilities that might have fueled Umar Khalid’s reconversion to Islam. And we can only speculate the reasons until then. There’s only one person who can put these speculations to rest, Umar Khalid himself.
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.